Clever abortion film shows complexities of this contentious issue

For many people, abortion is not a black and white issue, says Colette Sheridan, which is reflected in an Irish-made independent film, Twice Shy, which is being screened at Cannes this month.
Clever abortion film shows complexities of this contentious issue

HARD-HITTING: A scene from the movie Twice Shy, which tackles the issue of abortion

IF there’s one thing that incenses women, it is male politicians holding forth on issues that will never affect them — in other words, matters pertaining to reproduction.

Recently, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin refused to state if he is in favour of abortion in cases of rape and incest.

Speaking on Kildare FM, he said: “It’s not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’; that depends on a number of issues.”

Using an emotive argument, Martin said he knows of people “who are alive whose mother, in one particular case, was raped. She was the outcome of that and she gets very angry when people suggest she should never have had a life.”

I doubt very much that any woman (apart from hard pro-lifers) would object to abortion in cases of incest or rape.

It’s quite monstrous for Martin to imply that women should go ahead with pregnancies conceived in violence or in cases of incest — the last taboo. Would he fancy that if he had a womb? Would he capitulate to the laws of this country and endure nine months of pregnancy and birth following violation of the worst kind?

It hardly needs to be stated that abortion is an extremely contentious issue in this country. Which is why it came as something of a surprise that 87% of the 99 members of the Citizens’ Assembly voted in favour of repealing the 8th amendment.

Some 64% of the members of this group of ordinary people, established by the Taoiseach to advise on changes to the law on abortion, felt women should be able to access abortion for any reason as opposed to solely in cases of rape, incest or health problems such as fatal foetal abnormality.

That socio-economic matters come under the reasons for allowing abortion is ground-breaking. It underlines the reality of bringing up unplanned children, sometimes with no financial support from the father, and crippling childcare costs.

However, I have my doubts as to how representative the 99 people from the Citizens’ Assembly are. I don’t see abortion on demand being voted for in this country.

But there is undoubtedly maturation with regard to abortion. Irish women have always had abortions —they just put up with our hypocritical society that outsources the procedure.

For many people, abortion is not a black and white issue. And this is reflected in an Irish-made independent film, Twice Shy, which is being screened at Cannes this month.

Recently, the Tipperary-born director of the film, Tom Ryan, received the Best Young Director award at the Irish Film Festival in Australia.

At the award ceremony, the film was introduced by Brianna Parkins, the Sydney Rose of Tralee, who spoke about Ireland’s repeal of the 8th amendment campaign last year.

Having watched Twice Shy (which was screened at Indie Cork last year and is expected to have an Irish release later this year), I can only say that it’s a touching and clever film. It’s clever because it’s ambiguous and could just about be fuel for the pro-lifers as well as the pro-choice movement.

It’s not a piece of propaganda. It conveys people’s conflicting views on abortion.

A young couple, Andy and Maggie, whom we later learn have broken up, are driving to Dublin Airport so that Maggie can travel to London to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. While Maggie tries to strike up a conversation, even wondering aloud if it would be alright to go to see a film during her brief stay in London, Andy is mostly silent.

He is not amused at Maggie’s attempt to inject a bit of levity to the situation.

Concerned for his ex, he is horrified that she has booked into a 16-bed hostel to stay in after her abortion. It’s all she can afford.

The film goes into flashback mode with the couple’s loving relationship portrayed, from its early days to its fizzling out (although Andy points out that they never officially broke up.)

A sensitive guy, Andy is there for Maggie when, after the break-up, she tells him she is pregnant as a result of a drunken fling with one of her friends.

Andy asks her what she is going to do and she tells him about her plan, adding that Brian, the father of the child, is fine with her having an abortion.

But is Brian really the father? Either way, Andy wants to be ‘there’ for Maggie.

He insists on going to London with her and books them into a hotel. He even goes so far as asking Maggie if she’d consider keeping the baby. He would be willing to raise the child as if it was his own.

When Maggie rejects this offer, he asks if she’d consider adoption, to no avail.

The denouement is open-ended. This is a film that knows abortion isn’t black and white.

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